KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Rove Offers Strategy To Fight Democrats’ ‘Mediscare’ Tactics; GOP Offers No ‘Pragmatic Alternative’ To Health Law

The Wall Street Journal: The Return Of The Mediscare-Mongers
The midterm election is still 19 months away, but for some it's never too early for demagoguery. And so this week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new "Mediscare" ad. The targets are 17 Republican congressmen who supported the House budget framework that includes Medicare reforms. ... Here's how Republicans might pull off a successful counterpunch (Karl Rove, 4/3).

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Industry Lobbies Its Way To Medicare Pay Raise
What's most impressive about our highly dysfunctional heath care system is that we're always finding clever new ways to make it worse. The latest such move comes on the Medicare front, where lawmakers had been trying to rein in costs by modestly lowering the amount that large insurers would be paid for managing Medicare Advantage plans, which are a private-sector version of the government program. ... But after the insurance industry unleashed its lobbyists and started throwing its considerable political muscle around, it ended up not with a pay cut from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but a 3.3 percent increase (David Lazarus, 4/3).

Houston Chronicle: Universal Health Care For The Ownership Society
Sooner or later, Republicans will be forced to offer a pragmatic alternative to the Affordable Care Act. We haven't done this because health care is a miserable political swamp for the GOP. It forces us out of our comfort zone, leaving us to confront problems that do not yield to our favorite, market-driven solutions. We can't put this off forever. We need to move past slogans and build a plan (Chris Ladd, 4/4).

Bloomberg: Obamacare 'Repeal And Replace' Still Light On 'Replace'
Yuval Levin and Bloomberg View columnist Ramesh Ponnuru argue in the cover story of the current National Review that "repeal and replace" should remain the conservative mantra on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law is so unworkable, they say, that it can't be molded into something workable; conservatives must focus on outright replacement. ... When someone tells you a health care policy is terrible, the most important question is "compared with what"? And so it's disappointing that Levin and Ponnuru devoted just three paragraphs of their 3,100-word piece to discussing how a replacement for the Affordable Care Act might look (Josh Barro, 4/3).

Journal of the American Medical Association: Is Medicaid Expansion Really A No-Brainer For States
Even after the Supreme Court struck down a requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that required states to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals, states still seemed to have a juicy carrot to do so. … It turns out that the picture is not so simple (Stuart Butler, 4/3).

WBUR: CommonHealth: Cambridge Backs Abortion Rights, And The Feds Should Too
There is one part of the abortion story that tends to get less attention: the part about federal restrictions that prevent many women from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. The Hyde Amendment, originally passed by Congress only a handful of years after Roe v. Wade, withholds federal health care assistance funds for abortion. This means that millions of women who qualify for Medicaid, as well as federal employees, military service members, veterans and Peace Corps volunteers who receive their insurance from the federal government, are unable to use their insurance to cover the costs of an abortion (Diane Roseman and Megan Smith, 4/4).

The New York Times' Taking Note: Affirming Abortion Rights
Anti-abortion activists are nothing if not inventive. State legislatures sympathetic to the cause are constantly finding new ways to restrict the legality or availability of the procedure, passing bans on so-called "partial-birth" abortion, parental consent requirements, and, more recently, "fetal heartbeat" laws. Choking off money is also wildly popular. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 32 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of state funds except in cases where the woman's life is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Another eight states limit coverage in private insurance plans. The pro-choice side, perhaps necessarily, is usually on the defensive. But active attempts to affirm reproductive rights are not unheard of (Juliet Lapidos, 4/3).

New England Journal of Medicine: Limiting "Sugary Drinks" To Reduce Obesity -- Who Decides?
Perhaps the most important lesson is old news: economics often drives health policy. New York City's efforts to reduce obesity grew with its desire to control its health care costs for its residents, a disproportionate share of whom are obese or have diabetes. Meanwhile, large corporations continue to use their influence and money to derail public health measures that could reduce their profits. Although the general public shares the goals of public health, many people remain skeptical of government's choice of means for achieving those goals. Agencies that overstep their bounds or adopt rules that are intrusive or just plain silly invite backlash, which can make effective public health regulation impossible (Wendy K. Mariner and George J. Annas, 4/3).

New England Journal of Medicine: Half Empty Or Half Full? New York’s Soda Rule In Historical Perspective
Despite New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to appeal it, the March 11 decision by Justice Milton A. Tingling of the New York State Supreme Court striking down the city's partial ban on sugar-sweetened drinks larger than 16 fluid ounces might easily be seen as a cup half empty. The ruling represents a major setback for a controversial and ambitious proposal, which was approved by the New York City Board of Health on September 13, 2012, and was immediately challenged in court by a group of small businesses along with the National Restaurant Association and the American Beverage Association. But many people remain torn over whether the giant-soda ban is an important measure for combating obesity or a gross intrusion on personal liberty -- and so whether such a public health regulation should itself be seen as a glass half empty or a glass half full (Amy L. Fairchild, 4/3).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. News service): Uninsured Young Adults: Are They Really Invincible?
[A] twenty-something chooses not to purchase health insurance, the thinking goes, because getting sick is not something he or she can even picture -- a perceived invincibility -- and there are plenty of more fun things to buy. Findings from the 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) suggest that last sentence isn't true for most young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 in Colorado. In fact, a perceived "invincibility" is way down on the list of reasons that uninsured young adults lack coverage. The top of the list? Cost (Emily King, 4/3).

Medpage Today: The Changing Role Of The Doctor
ObamaCare is changing the image of the doctor we know and love. For better or worse, gone are the days of a physician carrying a black bag and making house calls. The new-age doctor is someone who is probably comfortable communicating via text message (secure, of course), or by email. With the rising demands of a new dimension of healthcare delivery, where doctors need to see more patients to make up for lower reimbursement, you will soon see some innovative ways by which doctors will be communicating with patients, and still getting paid (Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, 4/3).

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